Sources close to the Turkish military say the military did not look warmly to the idea of a joint covert operation with the Americans to capture PKK leaders in northern Iraq because they felt even the gossip of such a plan would be leaked and would drive the terrorist leadership deeper underground thus preventing planners from monitoring their whereabouts. Â
They feared exactly what happened after the Washington Post leaked a story that American officials had briefed senior congressional members about a planned joint operation to capture leaders of the PKK terrorist organization holed up in the northern Iraqi mountains.
They said the news leak meant such an operation had now become null and void.
According to an article in the Washington Post published on Monday by prominent columnist Robert D. Novak U.S. officials are working with their Turkish counterparts on a joint military operation to suppress Kurdish terrorists and capture their leaders. It said the aim of the US is to “forestall Turkey from invading Iraq” by helping it with this covert activity.
Novak said while detailed operational plans are necessarily concealed, the broad outlines have been presented to select members of Congress as required by law.
“U.S. Special Forces are to work with the Turkish army to suppress the Kurds’ guerrilla campaign. The Bush administration is trying to prevent another front from opening in Iraq, which would have disastrous consequences. But this gamble risks major exposure and failure.”
Novak said “significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK’s side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq. What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq?”
He said a surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Cheney who is now undersecretary of defense for policy. Edelman, a Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces to help the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the terrorist organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.
Novak reported Edelman’s listeners were stunned. “Wasn’t this risky? He responded that he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied. Even if all this is true, some of the briefed lawmakers left wondering whether this was a wise policy for handling the beleaguered Kurds, who had been betrayed so often by the U.S. government in years past.”
The Pentagon neither denied the Washington Post report nor confirmed it. However, Pentagon said Monday it is working with Turkey to resolve a “serious problem” posed by the PKK.
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “We recognize that the PKK is a serious problem and we’re working closely with both the government of Iraq and the government of Turkey to resolve this.”
Meanwhile, political observers said the fact that the story was leaked to the Washington Post made the prospects of a covert joint operation impossible. There was speculation that the news leak was the work of the Democrats who did not want the U.S. to open up new fronts in Iraq and further complicate American presence in Iraq when they were pushing for a withdrawal.
There was also speculation that the news leak could have been the work of the pro-Kurdish lobby.
The New Anatolian
06 August 2007ÂŠ